LinkedIn (Or, Feeling Like my Mom on Facebook)

First published on February 8, 2012 on Beyond the Elms: Scripps College Career Planning & Resources Blog.

In terms of social networks, I’ve never wandered beyond Facebook. Tumblr seems like a time trap, and I’d rather leave Tweeting for the birds. But it wasn’t until registering for LinkedIn that I doubted my ability to understand them.

I got confused on the second step of registration. Is my home zip code school, or my hometown? And step five completely threw me off: What’s my industry?

I scrolled through the options, and what kept running through my head was… I’m supposed to pick one of these? The last choice, writing and editing, seemed most accurate, but not particularly official. Newspapers was an option, I’ve worked at several, but magazine journalism or online blogs are more my style. Does that make me in Online Media? But oh, I love Libraries, and I haven’t ruled out Marketing… and what exactly does Media Production entail?

It was time to call in the expert.

“Mom?” I said as our Skype call connected. “Remember that time when I taught you what tagging was for on Facebook? It’s time for you to return the favor.”

For the next hour my mom patiently taught me all the tips and tricks of the website. No, you don’t have any friends on LinkedIn– you have connections.  No, the art camp you worked at three years ago isn’t relevant. No, the picture of you in your bikini at the beach isn’t appropriate for your profile. (Okay, that one I figured out on my own.)

Despite the frustration of learning the LinkedIn interface, I came away with not just a better understanding of the website, but also a better understanding of how to market myself. I selected my most important achievements, linked to the articles I’ve written that demonstrate my versatility, and came away satisfied. Satisfied with my profile, and satisfied with all that I’ve achieved so far in my career – things I hadn’t even thought to be proud of until I laid them out for the world to see.

In that spirit, I entered my e-mail into LinkedIn’s search engine to see if there was anyone I wanted to invite to join my network. And then I somehow selected the setting that invited every contact in my address book. Which includes everyone I had ever emailed. My high school gym teacher, a realtor I’d interviewed last summer for an article on the role of Internet in real estate, even the Scripps alum who interviewed me for my Scripps application.

I guess I’m not an expert quite yet. I’ll have to take it one step at a time. And my next step will be searching through the help section to learn how to rescind an invitation.

P.S. Thank you, Mom, for being my first friend – er, “connection” – on LinkedIn.

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